Turkey reopens most public places after coronavirus lockdown

Turkey has reopened restaurants and cafes in addition to many other public areas, as the government further eased coronavirus restrictions on Monday.

Many other facilities – including parks, beaches, swimming pools, gyms, libraries and museums – reopened across the country.

Istanbul’s iconic 15th-century Grand Bazaar market also reopened while millions of public sector employees returned to work.

Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has recorded over 4,500 virus-related deaths and more than 160,000 infections.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has been gradually easing the restrictions for the past few weeks.

The government has boasted of its success in handling the outbreak and preventing Turkey from becoming a virus hot spot.

Officials say the pandemic is now under control, but have repeatedly warned citizens to respect social-distancing rules and wear masks outside.

The Grand Bazaar market on the historic peninsula, also home to tourist sites such as the Hagia Sophia museum and the Blue Mosque, was closed on March 23 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It was the market’s longest closure in its more than 550-year-old history that did not involve fires or earthquakes.

All visitors have been told to wear masks and customer numbers are limited inside shops.

“Shop owners say they are happy to be back in business. They say being here is far better than staying at home,” Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said, reporting from the Grand Bazaar.

Koseoglu said that owners still have high market concerns as coronavirus is still an obstacle to the tourism industry.

“Most of the shop owners say they will wait and see how the business goes, hoping everything will be back to normal before September,” she added.

Daycare centres and kindergartens also reopened, but restrictions on the movements of those aged over 65 and under 18 will continue.

Bars and nightclubs have yet to open, while restaurants and cafes – open for the first time since March 16 – must space tables apart and diners must wear masks when they are not eating.

Shopping malls, barbershops and hair salons were allowed to reopen across Turkey early in May after a nearly two-month closure.

Domestic flights also resumed between a limited number of cities as an intercity travel ban was lifted, with national carrier Turkish Airlines taking its first trip since early April.

International flights remain suspended until June 10.

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